Redmond, WA, United States
Redmond, WA, United States

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Grant
Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Air Force | Program: STTR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 100.00K | Year: 2012

ABSTRACT: State of the art Orbital Transfer Vehicle systems require the demanding combined requirements of both high Thrust-to-Power (greater than 120 mN/kW) and high specific impulse (greater than 3000 s), all at constant power. The 25 kW PROTEAN system is a two-stage plasmoid thruster which adds an secondary auxiliary Neutral Entrainment (NE) stage to the ElectroMagnetic Plasmoid Thruster (EMPT) to dramatically increases the total Thrust-to-Power. The NE stage injects neutral propellant into the preformed plasmoid"s path. Through resonant charge exchange collisions mass is added to the plasmoid at no additional ionization cost. Kinetic energy is then efficiently added to the engorged plasmoid through Peristaltic Dynamic Acceleration, in which sequenced theta-pinch coils provide a large magnetic pressure gradient. In total, this system allows for very efficient acceleration of light as well as heavy plasmoids, all without significant further ionization or plasma frozen flow losses. By simply varying the auxiliary propellant input flow rate, thrust and specific impulse can be dynamically varied at constant input power and without affecting the initial plasma formation. PROTEAN is therefore a thruster system with an unprecedented frozen flow loss of less than 5 eV/ion providing mission designers an almost infinitely variable Isp and thrust range. BENEFIT: The PROTEAN thruster system is able to provide greater than 160 mN/kW and operate from 800-5000 s of specific impulse. In addition, this system is extremely lightweight, with a specific power of greater than 1 kW/kg, and designed to operate at constant power across an infinitely variable range of specific impulse conditions. At peak performance this thruster has the ability to operate with lower than 5 eV/ion, dramatically less than any Electric Propulsion system in existence. These combined abilities yield a thruster system that has numerous mission benefits, and thus, commercial benefits. The 25 kW PROTEAN system operating on Xenon would enable any number Orbital Transfer Vehicle mission architectures. A PROTEAN operating on lightweight or chemically reactive gases would allow for a true, fully dynamic, high thrust-to-power multi-mode system. For non-DOD missions, PROTEAN provides the unique ability to efficiently use In-Situ Resources at tremendous benefits to interplanetary missions.


Grant
Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Air Force | Program: STTR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 749.62K | Year: 2014

ABSTRACT: State of the art Orbital Transfer Vehicle systems and GEO transfer missions require the demanding combined requirements of both high Thrust-to-Power (greater than 150 mN/kW) and high specific impulse (greater than 3000 s), all at constant power. The 9 kW PROTEAN system is a two-stage plasmoid thruster which adds secondary Neutral Entrainment (NE) to the ElectroMagnetic Plasmoid Thruster (EMPT) to dramatically increases the total Thrust-to-Power. This NE stage injects neutral propellant into the plasma path, which are accelerated to high velocity through resonant charge exchange collisions. The NE stage then highly efficiently adds kinetic energy to the engorged plasmoid through Peristaltic Dynamic Acceleration, in which sequenced magnetic coils provide a large magnetic pressure gradient. In total, this system allows for very efficient acceleration of a plasmoid as well as the addition of active propellant mass, all without significant further ionization or plasma frozen flow losses. By simply varying the secondary propellant input flow rate, thrust and specific impulse can be dynamically varied at constant input power and without affecting the initial plasma formation. PROTEAN is therefore a thruster system with less than 5 eV/ion plasma frozen flow losses and can provide mission designers an almost infinitely variable Isp and thrust range. BENEFIT: The PROTEAN thruster system will be able to provide greater than 150 mN/kW and operate from 800-5000 s specific impulse. Additionally, this system will be lightweight (a specific power of greater than 1 kW/kg) and be able to operate at constant power across a wide range of specific impulse conditions. This thruster will have the ability to operate with lower than 5 eV/ion, dramatically less than any Electric Propulsion system in existence. These combined abilities yield a thruster system that has numerous mission benefits and, thus, commercial benefits. The 9 kW PROTEAN operating on Xenon would enable wide-ranging Orbital Transfer Vehicles and GEO/GTO orbit raising missions. A PROTEAN system operating on lightweight or chemically reactive gases would truly allow for high thrust-to-power multi-mode operation. For non-DOD missions, the ability to efficiently use In-Situ Resources has tremendous benefits to interplanetary missions.


Systems and methods establish a magnetically insulated fusion process. An exemplary embodiment establishes a Field Reversed Configuration (FRC) plasma, wherein the FRC plasma is a closed field, magnetically confined plasma; collapses a metal shell about the FRC plasma; and establishes a fusion reaction in response to collapsing the metal shell about the FRC plasma.


Systems and methods establish plasma in a rotating magnetic field. An exemplary embodiment is a plasma thruster that establishes a first transverse magnetic field with respect to a system axis of a plasma propulsion system; establishes a second transverse magnetic field oriented orthogonally to the first transverse magnetic field, wherein the second transverse magnetic field is out of phase with the first transverse magnetic field; and establishes a magnetic field aligned with the system axis using a plurality of magnet elements oriented along the system axis. A plasma containment portion defines an interior region, wherein an interior region of a plasma containment portion accommodates a plasma that is established by a rotating magnetic field component that is cooperatively established by the first transverse magnetic field and the second transverse magnetic field, and wherein the plasma is accelerated out of the plasma containment portion by magnetic forces to generate a propulsion force.


Systems and methods establish plasma in a rotating magnetic field. An exemplary embodiment is a plasma thruster that establishes a first transverse magnetic field with respect to a system axis of a plasma propulsion system; establishes a second transverse magnetic field oriented orthogonally to the first transverse magnetic field, wherein the second transverse magnetic field is out of phase with the first transverse magnetic field; and establishes a magnetic field aligned with the system axis using a plurality of magnet elements oriented along the system axis. A plasma containment portion defines an interior region, wherein an interior region of a plasma containment portion accommodates a plasma that is established by a rotating magnetic field component that is cooperatively established by the first transverse magnetic field and the second transverse magnetic field, and wherein the plasma is accelerated out of the plasma containment portion by magnetic forces to generate a propulsion force.


Systems and methods establish a magnetically insulated fusion process. An exemplary embodiment establishes a Field Reversed Configuration (FRC) plasma, wherein the FRC plasma is a closed field, magnetically confined plasma; collapses a metal shell about the FRC plasma; and establishes a fusion reaction in response to collapsing the metal shell about the FRC plasma.


Grant
Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Air Force | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 748.82K | Year: 2013

ABSTRACT: Modern military space systems use high specific impulse (Isp) propulsion systems to provide efficient station keeping and large delta-V orbital maneuvers. A multi-mode propulsion system utilizes a single propellant such as AF-M315E to provide high thrust as well as a 1000-4000 s Isp. By utilizing the same propellant in multiple thrusters an entire new range of mission operations are possible. The same spacecraft design and propulsion subsystem can be used over a wide range of mission operations from orbital plane changes to station keeping. Perhaps most importantly is the ability to provide on command dynamic mission changes for avoidance, for rendezvous, or precision observation all without a preordained mission set. The proposed development program will demonstrate and characterize the EMPT-MM, a 1.6 - 5 kW FRC thruster capable of efficient operation of Hydrazine, Xenon, and AF-M315E. In Phase I a direct liquid injection and pre-ionization system was demonstrated. In Phase II, this injector will be combined with a 1 kW thruster that will be demonstrated at MSNW and AFRL facilities running in steady operation on full AF-M315E propellant. At the conclusion of Phase II, a high-efficiency, wide specific impulse range multi-mode thruster will be developed, demonstrated, and delivered to AFRL. BENEFIT: Modern lightweight solar panel technology, such as the DARPA FAST program, has created a unique need for lightweight, efficient, and highly variable power Electric Propulsion.T the ability to use complex propellants such as Air, AF-M315E, or Hydrazine would allow a dramatic shift in the capabilities of DOD spacecraft. An EP system operating at high specific impulse on monopropellants could be retasked indefinitely between station keeping and rapid orbital maneuvers using a single propellant. Additionally, the ability to use ambient atmospheric gases would enable highly-eccentric orbits that use ambient Air for orbit raising and drag reduction for very low orbits. The Multi-Mode FRC thruster has definite payoffs for long-term military missions. This technology has direct applicability to missions involving Space Situational Awareness, orbit raising tugs, Dynamic and operationally responsive space, as well as all high delta-V missions such as plane changes. A Multi-Mode electric propulsion system capable of operation with any complex, liquid propellant has applications for DOD high-power EP, DOD rapid response propulsion, and NASA science missions.


Grant
Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Air Force | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2012

ABSTRACT: MSNW"s Electrodeless Lorentz Force (ELF) thruster will address the demanding combined requirements of light weight, high efficiency, and high thrust-to-power electric propulsion in a single device. As spacecraft power systems get lighter, traditional electric propulsion thruster, PPU, and gimbal masses become dominant. Moreover, the increase in available power enables efficient, rapid orbital transfers with sufficient T/P. The ELF thruster technology has demonstrated a wide range of specific impulse at high efficiency. The high plasma and power density of the ELF thruster, coupled with magnetic isolation of the plasma from thruster walls yields an ultra-compact and lightweight thruster package that is scalable to high powers. In addition to a lightweight thruster body, a new plasmoid Magnetic Thrust Vectoring (MTV) system will demonstrate +/- 30 degrees of low-weight, low-power gimbaling. The RMF-formed FRC thruster will be operated with a low-mass, high temperature pulsed inductive charging PPU (PCPPU) that eliminates DC-DC transformers and temperature sensitive components and operates up to 100 kW. Proposed is a program to design, test, and optimize a full-scale, 10 kg, 50-100 kW ELF-200 thruster operating at 1,400-3,500 seconds specific impulse with a low mass Pulse Charging PPU and Magnetic Thrust Vectoring system. BENEFIT: The ELF thruster is a highly-scalable, low specific mass (<0.5 kg/kW) and variable specific impulse (1,000-6,000 s) thruster technology. The ELF is also designed to operate between 25-100 kW in a single, integrated thruster system. Combined with a low mass pulsed inductive charging PPU and fully Magnetic Thrust Vectoring system, the ELF-200 becomes a formidable space propulsion system. These capabilities are highly valued by NASA, DOD, and their subcontractors in modern space propulsion systems for reducing spacecraft subsystem mass and increasing on-orbit capabilities as more advanced solar panel technology becomes available. This technology will be suitable to replace all current in-space electric propulsion systems greater than 10 kW. The ELF technology has application for satellite main propulsion and LEO-GEO transfer in earth orbit. Additionally, the high specific impulse operation of the ELF will have applications for large telecom and military satellite station-keeping as well as deep space NASA missions.


Grant
Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 1.12M | Year: 2011

The Electromagnetic Plasmoid Thruster (EMPT) has demonstrated the ability to ionize, electromagnetically accelerate, and eject a broad range of complex and chemically-reactive molecular gases, including monopropellants. EMPT has the potential to dramatically increase the operational range of existing electric propulsion (EP) systems in both power density, power throttling, and propellant choice. Proposed here is a Phase II program to develop protoflight hardware for the EMPT thruster to be flown on FalconSAT-6. This experiment will demonstrate the in-space operation of a high specific power pulsed thruster operating at 1 kW average power on Xenon. A ground-based multi-mode development will demonstrate the electromagnetic operation of the EMPT on monopropellants. The highly scalable EMPT represents a dramatic advancement for EP technology and has direct applications for 1 kW to 1 MW EP thrusters


Grant
Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Air Force | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2014

ABSTRACT: Orbital transfer missions require a demanding combination of lightweight, flexible operation and high Thrust-to-Power (greater than 120 mN/kW) electric propulsion. Adding Neutral Entrainment (NE) to a pulsed electromagnetic thruster has the potential to dramatically increases the total Thrust-to-Power by decreasing effective plasma frozen flow and ionization losses. It also enables a new class of thrusters, so-called Combustion Enhanced Electric Propulsion. In Combustion Enhanced EP a lightweight propellant in burned in a micro mono-propellant thruster within an EP system. That decomposed, hot, neutral gas is then entrained in a 5-15 kW class NE thruster. This coaxial combination of thrusters decreases overall system mass and complexity, while simultaneously increasing performance. By harnessing the momentum and chemical energy of the mono-propellant and entraining it in a plasma stream, T/P can be increased at all operational exhaust velocities. The following Phase I study will develop a series of system and thermo-chemical models to optimize total efficiency, T/P, and system flexibility. An experimental program will address the thermal and engineering challenges of a Combustion Enhanced Electric Propulsion system. BENEFIT: By utilizing Combustion Enhanced Electric Propulsion with an electromagnetic thruster, lightweight mono-propellants can be used from 200-2000 s specific impulse. This thruster system will greater than 100 mN/kW and operate over 50% efficiency from 500 to 2000 s. Additionally, this system should be lightweight (less than 1 kW/kg). These combined abilities yield a thruster system that has numerous mission benefits and, thus, commercial benefits. A 3-15 kW system operating on a green mono-propellant would enable wide-ranging multi-mode orbital transfer missions. For non-DOD missions, the ability to efficiently use In-Situ Resources has tremendous benefits to interplanetary missions.

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